Prom returns to Douglas County schools in new forms

Northwestern and Superior high schools opt for "Footloose"-style, dance-free events. Graduation planning is also in the works.
Prom dresses hang from the staircase at Superior High School on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. The dresses are free for students to use. (Jed Carlson /

Douglas County schools are gearing up for traditional spring events like prom and graduation. Although they may look significantly different from pre-pandemic celebrations, school officials said it's important to hold them.

“We know how challenging it is for all kids and just wanted to provide as many opportunities as we can,” SHS Principal Rick Flaherty said.

SHS prom

Prom kicks off April 24 at Superior and Northwestern high schools. Both are holding prom in “Footloose” fashion, with no dancing.

Superior’s event will be held in the commons of SHS, a throwback to how proms were held before the district began using the Yellowjacket Union on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus. Prom adviser Deana Wells said they've been holding the event on the UWS campus for about eight years. The decorations will also have a retro theme. Wells said they'll be repurposing backdrops and decorations from previous years.

Only seniors can buy tickets for themselves and one guest. The evening will include a grand march and dinner provided by the district’s food service department.


"I think the kids that come will be pleasantly surprised at the food,” Flaherty said.

Director of Food Service Jamie Wilson said his team loves to cater events like the annual "Salute to Service" dinner for retiring teachers and staff, and they're looking forward to seeing the kids all dressed up.

"Our team gets to serve some different menu items and show off some of their other talents," Wilson said.

The prom king and queen who won a virtual vote last year will be crowned and dinner will be followed by the SHS Pledgemakers Talent Show, which in past years has been a separate May event.
A sign advertising the prom talent show at Superior High School. (Jed Carlson /

No parents or additional guests will be allowed to attend. The iFan Sports Network will broadcast both the grand march and the talent show, Flaherty said. A photographer will also be on hand to take pictures. Students will be required to maintain social distancing and wear masks except when they’re eating.

It may not be a typical prom, Flaherty said, but staff have teamed up behind the scenes to give students the best experience possible given the current pandemic.


"I'm really happy that we're able to do something," Wells said, as this may be the first time all year the seniors have been able to see some classmates who are in different cohorts or attending school remotely.

To make the event accessible to as many seniors as possible, she said, ticket prices are $15 each. Donated prom dresses are available to students for free. The dresses currently hang on the school stairwell, and they’ve been disappearing.

“I just saw a student that was picking out a dress yesterday after school,” Flaherty said.
Prom dresses hang above the Spartan Shack in the commons area at Superior High School on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. (Jed Carlson /

NHS prom

Northwestern High School is taking its prom festivities outdoors this year — to the football stadium, to be exact.

“The only thing that will stop us is snow and rain. Other than that we’ll be outside,” Principal Mark Carlson said.

A grand march will take place at 3 p.m. April 24, with parents able to watch and take pictures from the home-side bleachers. Masks are required and social distancing is encouraged, but Carlson said there will be no audience seating cap. Students taking part in the event will be socially distanced, and footwear options will be limited because they will need to be suitable for walking on the football field and track.


Because no prom was held last year, Northwestern High School will announce two separate prom courts — one for the senior class and one for the junior class — at the end of the grand march. The high school will not be sponsoring a dance or additional activities following the grand march.

“From that point forward, the evening is their own to do whatever they want to do,” Carlson said, which could involve visiting local spots for pictures or going out to eat.

SHS graduation

Superior High School will hold its graduation ceremony outdoors in the Spartan Complex at 1 p.m. June 5.

“It is going to be rain or shine and it is going to be outside,” Flaherty said. “We are not planning for an indoor event. People need to dress accordingly because we could have 80 degrees in May or we could have 45 with a lake wind.”

The current plan is to allow four guests per graduating senior, with tickets being given directly to the seniors for distribution. Family groups will be kept socially distant from each other. Craig Morrissey with iFan has volunteered to broadcast the event for family and friends who are unable to attend.

Flaherty said the high school is exploring the option to hold some spring events, including the scholarship night and honors night, in person with limited seating.

" We hope to do more and more activities like that in person," he said.

NHS graduation

Commencement exercises have not been finalized for Northwestern High School’s class of 2021. Carlson said he’s enlisted the school’s computer assisted drafting class to plot out how to safely hold as many people as possible for graduation.


“I’ve gotten students involved and a lot are seniors, so they’re very invested in the project,” the Northwestern principal said.

They’ve spent the last month measuring the football field, gymnasium and bleachers and factoring in different variables and seating arrangements. Once the students have presented their recommendations, Carlson and staff members will use that information to determine what commencement will look like.

In addition to maintaining social distancing and requiring masks, he said they are expecting to limit the number of attendees.

“We’re going to have to be doing tickets, which we’ve never done before,” Carlson said, with at least four tickets per senior.

Solon Springs prom

The Solon Springs School District is in the planning stages for this year's prom, which will take place May 22. More information will be presented to the School Board at its April 26 meeting, according to Solon Springs Principal Holly Jones.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
What To Read Next
Get Local